Tag Archives: movie

How To Not Ruin The Silver Chair

I get why it’s so tough to fully adapt the whole Chronicles of Narnia into films.

Sure you can make headway capturing the magic and wonder of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a well-known story with mass appeal and everybody loves Mr. Tumnus.

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Yet when I stand in the woods holding my package, people get all uptight about it. [Source.]

And while it’s nowhere near as popular, Prince Caspian makes for a good, old-fashioned swashbuckling romp.

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My name is Inigo Montoya!

Do it right and you might have the momentum to try The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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I’M ON A BOAT (the movie)

And that usually kills it.

Not that folks haven’t made valiant efforts. It’s just that Dawn Treader is a much slower story – more of a “travelogue” than an adventure on the high seas. The battles, beasts, and betrayals that mark the other two are noticeably absent here, as are two of the original four Pevensie children, and much of the steam built up by the previous two installments.

And that’s a damn shame. Continue reading

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How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

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Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading

CWR’s Halloween Recommendations IV

Well my repellent readers, after a horrific hiatus Culture War Reporter’s is back from the grave to fight for your faithful following. And we start with one of my personal favorites, our fourth annual Halloween movie recommendations! Now let us feast!

The Perfect Host

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As a rule, I don’t consider “comedy horror” to be a legitimate subgenre of horror. Things are either scary or they’re funny and mashing ’em together in a movie usually makes sure that it’s neither. That said, 2010’s The Perfect Host may well change my mind about that. Imagine if Hannibal was a black comedy and you pretty much have this delightful hidden gem. We bear witness to an evening of strange events as a conman knocks on the wrong door and gets more than he bargains for. And since you’re wondering, yes, that is Niles from Fraiser. He actually makes a pretty compelling villain.

 They Look Like People

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This is, without a doubt, one of the single best movies I have ever seen.

I cannot sing its praises enough. I’d spend a whole blog post breaking down all the things that make it awesome, but I don’t want to give away a single second of it. Know only that a young man receives a surprise visit from a childhood friend. What follows is a slow-burning, subtle, and staggeringly realistic film in the vein of such masterpieces as Stoker and It Follows. Amazingly written, beautifully shot, and utterly compelling. If you watch literally nothing else on this list, watch this.

 We Are What We Are

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It’s about a family of cannibals. But you knew that. You’d know that from the trailers, from the first five minutes, or from having watched even an episode or two of X-Files. But fortunately, the folks behind We Are What We Are know that you know that, and spend their time making this film less about any cliched twist (though there is certainly an unexpected jolt at the end) and more about painting a vivid and haunting picture of American Gothic. Beautifully shot, amazingly acted, and with a much needed degree of self-awareness that raises this film head and shoulders above it’s just-for-the-fans brethren. Continue reading

The Deepwater Horizon Film Reminds us That Hollywood is Still a Propaganda Machine

I’m kinda furious about this:

When first watching the trailer, I tried to remind myself that it was just a movie.

But it’s never just a movie, is it?

Given enough time, I’m sure I could list hundreds of films that changed my perspective on the world. The Hours was the first time I felt challenged on my once very black-and-white perspective on LGBT rights. Hotel Rwandadespite being called “revisionist junk” by then UN peacekeeper/now senator Romeo Dallaire, was the first movie to open my eyes to the role of politics in preventing, or allowing, genocide and devastation. There are just so many movies that moved me to reconsider my stance or opinion by challenging me to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Movies do affect us, often more than we’d like to admit. Heck, that’s exactly why we talk so much about representation in movies here on the blog.

So I am a movie fan who believes that movies impact their viewers. That’s why I’m furious that there is about to be a major blockbuster that will hero-wash “the worst oil spill in U.S. History” a spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days and leaked approximately 3.19 million barrels of oil. Continue reading

A Rather Fortuitous Event

Readers, I want you to picture me.

It’s 10:30 on a Monday, a metric ****-ton past my deadline for this post. I’m weary from a hard day of work (plus overtime). I’m mentally wiped after my past three attempts at creating a post have resulted in thousand word essays, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And in these times, I turn to the near-infinite bounty of the internet for inspiration, and lo and behold readers the internet hath provided:

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Image retrieved from Imgur, fair use

That’s right- it’s a picture of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, from the upcoming Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Because they’re doing that.

 

Yeah, I’m going nuts here too.

Now I enjoyed the hell out of the books, which were impeccably written (“impeccably written” being a Danish term meaning “the best thing ever”). I thought the 2004 movie adaptation was fascinating, funny, and as faithful a take as could be done in the space of two hours.

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There are two kinds of people in the world. People who will say that they want this house, and liars.

That said, I am pumped for the series, and absolutely loving the idea of finally seeing NHP as a villain (yeah, I saw Gone Girl, but I’m not counting that one). And did I mention that the voice of Lemony Snickett will be conveyed to us in the dulcet tones of Patrick Warburton?

Well that’s happening too.

awsm Continue reading

CWR’s Halloween Recommendations III

Well boys and ghouls, it’s once again that time of the year! The annual Culture War Reporters Halloween Recommendations! As always, details will be kept light to avoid spoilers and to maximize your viewing pleasure- that’s just how thoughtful we are.

Let’s dig in.

Jacob’s Ladder

If I could give someone an example of what I think the standard should be for horror movies, it’d probably be Jacob’s Ladder.

In spite of having hit theaters a quarter century ago, Jacob’s Ladder is an absolutely chilling story that’ll unnerve even the most jaded audience of today. This is one of those all-too-rare horror movies- the kind that remember their goal is to horrify the audience, rather than create an iconic monster or lay the groundwork for a franchise. Unassuming, intelligent, and artistic, Jacob’s Ladder provides a relentless march straight through the heart of darkness, and will drag you along (kicking and screaming if need be).

Honeymoon

In an age when footage of films are leaked on a daily basis, where the internet churns out speculation 24/7, where whole scripts can be accidentally (or “accidentally”) uncovered by the ravenous denizens of cyberspace, it can be hard to keep a film surprising.

And against all odds, Honeymoon does just that.

Forgoing jump-scares for haunting character development and unsettling atmosphere, this exquisitely acted movie manages to remain truly frightening even after its whole hideous design has been laid bare. Definitely one worth watching. Continue reading

Putting The Martian On Blast – Racebending, Whitewashing, and the Last Straw

The Martian is Guilty of Whitewashing

Last Thursday the Media Action Network For Asian-Americans [MANAA] issued a statement criticizing director Ridley Scott for the whitewashing of Asian roles in his film The Martian. Their judgements are twofold, namely citing that:

  • NASA’s director of Mars operations Dr. Venkat Kapoor as an Asian-Indian character who identifies religiously as being “a Hindu.” The group pointed out that in Scott’s film, his name is changed to Vincent Kapoor, and he’s played by British black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who says his father was “a Hindu” but that his mother was “Baptist.”
  • Mindy Park, described by Weir as Korean-American, is played in the movie by Mackenzie Davis, a white, blonde actress.

Now I wish I could proceed on to the rest of this blog post, but people have asked the question as to whether or not this is, technically, whitewashing. It’s going to take a few paragraphs, but let’s get that out of the way-

Okay, The Martian is Guilty of Racebending/Whitewashing

Let’s start from the very, very, very top. The Wikipedia entry for this can actually be found under “racebending”, with “whitewashing” cited as being [citation needed] a more archaic term. Their definition of this practice is:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

The reason people have been asking the question as to whether or not this did in fact take place is that The Martian is a film adaptation of a novel by author Andy Weir. As such the source material is devoid of any visual aids in regards to the explicit ethnicities of its characters. Weir himself had a number of things to say about this with MTV News at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film debuted [the interview occurred before MANAA’s statement]:

In regards to writing and describing his characters’ ethnicities-

“So unless a physical description is somehow relevant to the plot, OK, you know he’s missing a leg — something like that, but unless it’s like really important to the plot then I don’t physically describe my characters at all.”

“You can imagine them however you like. Like, for instance, the ethnicity of Mark, I never told you.”

In response to criticisms of Chiwetel Ejiofor being cast as Vincent Kapoor-

“He’s an American. Americans come from lots of different sources! You can be Venkat Kapoor and black.”

In response to criticism of Mackenzie Davis being cast as Mindy Park-

“Whatever ethnicity she has, she’s an American and her family has been in America forever, which is why her first name is just Mindy, but her last name is Park. But Park is also a British surname so the casting people [could have] thought Mackenzie Davis looks like someone descended from Brits. And she did a great job! I’m certainly not complaining about anything related to casting.”

mindyparkWhile not a direct quote, MTV News also shares how Weir envisioned Park while writing the novel:

“He did admit that he’d always pictured Mindy Park as of Korean lineage, but emphasized again that he had never actually explicitly written her as Korean.”

This is all well and good, but problematic in that it doesn’t jive with an interview that took place in May of this year with the blog domesoph. When asked by blogger Sophie Milam about how he approached writing his extensive cast, Weir responded [emphasis added]:

“I didn’t set out to deliberately balance the crew. For the most part, I just wanted them each to be unique enough for the reader to tell them apart without prompting. It’s a real problem in written fiction. You don’t have the face on-screen or voice being heard to remind the audience who’s who. They need to know it immediately from the name.
So there are no two people on Hermes who are the same demographic. There’s one white American guy (Beck), one Hispanic guy (Martinez), and one German guy (Vogel). There are two women of undefined ethnicity (presumably white) but one of them is the Commander, so you won’t get them confused either. Especially since they all call her ‘Commander’.
So it wasn’t any deliberate attempt at diversity. It was really just a shortcut to making sure the reader knew who was who. You’ll find I pulled the same trick with the NASA characters: Teddy (white guy who is in charge), Mitch (white guy who isn’t in charge), Venkat (Indian), Annie (white woman), Mindy Park (Korean woman), Rich Purnell (African American).”

Now I want to be fair and admit that not every author is [or can be] Alan Moore, who has very publicly denounced all film adaptations of his own work. Weir is currently working on his sophomore novel, with The Martian making up the entirety of his current bibliography. As an author with his first-ever book being adapted by Hollwood, and with the film rumoured to be nabbing an Oscar, there are more reasons against than for when it comes to rocking the boat. So let’s discard what Weir has to say, separate from his novel, completely.

All art is open to interpretation regardless of the creator’s intent, so without Weir’s opinions here’s what we know about the characters:

That being said I’m willing to make the concession that free of Weir’s intentions Mindy Park certainly could have been either White or East Asian. When it comes to Venkat Kapoor, on the other hand, most signs point towards him being South Asian, more specifically East Indian. Let’s pull up the definition for “racebending” again:

“when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more ‘palatable’ or ‘profitable’ ethnicity.”

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Chiwetel Ejiofor is an Academy Award winning actor. He’s also a Nigerian English man, part of a demographic that has not struggled in Hollywood compared to many others. Comparatively speaking I would run out of American films headlining East Indian talent before I ran out of fingers. Are Black men more profitable than Indian men? Everything I know about North America answers a resounding yes. So this is what we’re left with:

Venkat Kapoor was racebent for The Martian.

Mindy Park [given the author’s intent] was whitewashed for The Martian.

To be fair [and I think I have been thus far], East Indian actor Irrfan Khan had been in talks to play Kapoor but had to decline due to another commitment. It’s worth noting that the role had been intended for Khan, and it’s also commendable that- Continue reading